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The Ambiguity Of Cutting Green Beans

I’ve been crying a lot lately.

And I want that stated like a fact, like odontophobia is the fear of teeth and the pancreas produces insulin. You’re not sorry that the pancreas produces insulin, so don’t permit yourself a negative reaction to me crying a lot. It’s just how it is. 1 in 5000 north Atlantic lobsters are born blue. Blue is how things are sometimes.

I’m not a very good hysterical sobber. Rather, I purse my lips and rivulets of tears stream down my cheeks. I seem to be crying a lot in the morning when I’m sitting zazen and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I mean, I let thoughts come and go and return to my breath. Does the same go for tears? Do I just let them fall or wipe them away? I’ve been letting them be. They tickle my face, splash my mudra.

I want to tell you about cutting the green beans but I’m not sure what they mean. I knew when I was cutting them that I would remember them forever. Does that happen to you? The absentminded flow of the day compresses into a vibrant pause and you become aware of yourself as this impossible being in an impossible world doing impossible things. In this case, cutting green beans. You’re not a tree in the Black Forest. You’re not a Japanese boy petting a 3-legged yellow dog. Held in the tension between nothing and anything, there you are, a man cutting green beans.

When I’m lucky enough to stumble into such a radical perspective of myself, it’s always accompanied by the rare sensation—rare in my case—that things are absolutely perfect as they are, that, if I was granted the opportunity to change something right then, anything, I wouldn’t because I intuitively know the earth would derail and crash into the sun.

Because the world, right then, depends on me cutting green beans. The world, right then, hinges on the woman at the stove.

It’s shining in a world revealed in this way that cuts deep memories and lays the ground for the rarest form of contentment. To be what you are, informed by words like fate and destiny—necessary. But then, and this is beautiful somehow in a way I don’t quite understand, cutting the green beans, no longer a source of contentment, becomes the reason I’ve been crying a lot.

Those moments, those vibrant pauses wherein all the pieces fit in the necessary way, are turtles lumbering across the busy road. Contentment is an ice cube on the sun beaten sidewalk. And then you cry. You cry in the shower, when you’re pushing a grocery cart, when you walk through doorways, you cry. And by crying, crying a lot, the act of crying is raised above merely being a reaction to sadness and something that needs to stop. No. Crying is a way to be, how things are awhile; it’s your wondrous turn to be a blue lobster.

Reader Comments (28)

Hey, you're back.

August 20, 2012 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJett

I said I'd be back. Soon.

August 20, 2012 at 10:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

It is.

(Wait. Are you turning into TwoBusy?)

Glad you're okay and made it back to the land of the living.

August 20, 2012 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterAngella


August 20, 2012 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterZoe

You always did say you liked ice cubes and I happen to like lobsters, most of us do, so we're ok. Carry on, do what you need to do. I'll have coffee ready for when it's done. xo

August 21, 2012 at 4:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterN

This post reminds me of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And the Tao te Ching.

August 21, 2012 at 5:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJuli

Long-time reader, first time commenter. I've been feeling like a blue lobster for awhile now, crying when no one else is around. I haven't told anyone else just yet, like my husband or friends. But I've felt this way before, always in a sense. Thanks for reminding me I'm not the only blue lobster out here.

August 21, 2012 at 6:59 AM | Unregistered Commenterlam

I read your comment on Maezen's blog a few days ago and clicked to see who you were. Then the words of your previous post got stuck in my mind - and made me worry. I felt compelled to email you. Me, someone from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a fellow Zen practitioner, a mom of two, a wife of a guy diagnosed with cancer. In short, someone you don't know at all. I just wanted to let you know that I was thinking of you.
In a few spare minutes I have left the stove for what it is - dicing tomatoes - to check your blog. And you won't believe how happy I am to find new words here. If you hadn't blogged today, I for sure would have sent that email. Because for the past 48 hrs you've been on my mind a lot.
Hang in there - and nothing is definitely wrong with some kind of Smurf-like lobster!

August 21, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoos

Thinking of you, as always. xo

August 21, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentersweetney

I love those vibrating pauses. When I look outside and the sun is setting, that time of day when the world looks fluorescent and I feel like I can do magic, I'll ask myself, "Who am I to question where or why I am, right at this moment?" I could cry right now thinking of turtles, and ice cubes, and green beans.

August 21, 2012 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterAna

I, too, have been feeling sad lately. It isn't a debilitating, non-functioning kind of sadness... I still love to laugh and interact with others... but there is just something in the pit of my belly that is gnawing at me. And for no good reason. Which, in turn, fills me with guilt, and scares me...makes me wonder if it's a prescient feeling...like something bad might be on it's way.

I am not sure what to do about it. One thing I have been thinking is that I might look into working with my local Hospice.

Beautiful writing, BHJ. Just beautiful.

August 21, 2012 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterClare

I saw this early today and thought of the brilliance of words and curses, which in turn led me here because i was worried about you.


August 21, 2012 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterjess

hang in there, big guy, it's going to be OK.
we need you here.

August 21, 2012 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterme

I'm just glad Ben isn't the only blue lobster running around on the internet.

August 21, 2012 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterthe muskrat

So, so wonderful.

August 22, 2012 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

with you: a new baby, a sweet-n-sour 5 year old, the end of summer, tomatoes so large & misshapen spiders build nests in their nooks, fighting neighbors, a quiet novella, and this nice chunk of sky spread out above our tiny, treeless back yard. all of it lovely, here, ours. tears indeed.

August 23, 2012 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterkc

this is me. all the time lately.
yet I am stuck in a memory of my childhood.
a happy memory of doing the color by number in the Staten Island Advance at my grandma's kitchen table. I must have that thought everyday. It chokes me up because of how simply lovely it was.
I went to the art store to see if there were anymore color by numbers. But they all sucked. And I got upset by that. I wish I could go back there, back in time. But I can't. I don't live there anymore.

August 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commenternottherox

This post is one of the many reasons I file your blog under "The Good Stuff" in my feed reader.

August 30, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmy

You posted this one time, and it saved me. I listened to it for months trying to get through the year. This song made me believe things would be better on January 1st, if I could just get through that year. I did. January 1 wasn't the magical date where things got better, but they did eventually. This song was my anthem. Back at you.


August 30, 2012 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMe

just happened upon you. simultaneously rejoicing and pissed. the former because I love your brain. the latter because now I'm compelled to read all the way through the archives instead of working on my dissertation. thanks. shit.

September 1, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterrunbaber

Exactly what I needed today.

September 1, 2012 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMouse


September 1, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRachel Friesen

You really have a knack for cutting to the quick of odd esoteric, yet universal experiences. This one particularly resonates with my current state; so much so (and I pause before I say the following because it sounds so naff), that I think I should print it out and fold it up and put it in my wallet with the other notes I'm supposed to reference when I feel the world going all atilt and think I'm going to fall off.

September 1, 2012 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterellie

Thank you.

September 3, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAccidentalPoet


September 4, 2012 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPoe

This is perfect. Thank you.

September 5, 2012 at 5:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterKellly

absolutely beautiful.

September 5, 2012 at 7:26 AM | Unregistered Commenternic @mybottlesup


September 5, 2012 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered Commentertwobusy

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